Last week I talked about Kidderminster’s links with Sir Rowland Hill, and mentioned there are other things that Kidderminster is linked with, namely the carpet industry, the canal and river network and the Severn Valley Railway.
Topic #2 of Kate’s photochallenge is “a sense of the place you work” so as I work from home, I thought it was an ideal opportunity to share some more facts about the industrial heritage of Kidderminster.
Kidderminster has a long history of involvement with the carpet industry, the first carpet being made here in 1735. Ideally located in the centre of the country, with an expanding canal network and the rivers Stour and Severn, the carpet industry brought prosperity and expansion to the town which continued throughout the 20th Century aided by the post war rebuilding programme and the desire for wall to wall carpets.
Despite the decline since the 70’s mainly through cheap imports, the industry is still the biggest employer in the area. In 1983 the Carpet Museum Trust was created with the aim of creating a museum in Kidderminster “to interpret and display the history of Kidderminster and the surrounding area with an emphasis on the carpet industry” it finally becomes a reality with The Official Opening of the Museum of Carpet scheduled for Friday 19th October 2012 and it will open to the public on Saturday 20th October 2012. Find out more here.
As well as the rivers and canals, the industrial heritage of the area also involves the railway. Built between 1858 and 1862 the Severn Valley Railway (SVR) covered 40 miles between Hartlebury near Droitwich and Shrewsbury via Bridgnorth Coalport and Ironbridge. Absorbed into the Great Western Railway in the 1870’s the line was extended from Bewdley to Kidderminster in 1878. The line carried primarily freight taffic, mostly agricultural, but also coal traffic around Highley and Alveley colliery. The line finally closed in 1963.
Preservation of the SVR dates from 1965 when the first 5 mile section from Bridgnorth to Alveley was purchased, but it took until 1984 to purchase the rest of the line, with Kidderminster Town to Bewdley opening in July of that year. Carrying about 250,000 passengers a year, SVR now has a visitor and education centre, The Engine House at Highley, which houses the reserve collection of engines, exhibitions, gift shop and a restaurant. There are many gala weekends and special events througout the year including the Santa Specials at Christmas, murder mystery evenings and the 1940’s weekend. Find out more about this beautiful heritage line here, perhaps I will see you there for Sunday lunch?